April 11, 2019
Jade Checlair was born and raised in Brussels, Belgium. Prior to attending the University of Chicago, she studied physics at the University of Toronto and spent a summer in Tokyo researching exoplanets. She’s now in her third year at UChicago, pursuing a PhD in the Department of the Geophysical Sciences.
What have you been studying or researching as part of your program?
Exoplanet habitability. In particular, I am developing statistical exoplanet habitability tests that we could use with future NASA instruments.
Why did you choose the University of Chicago?
I chose UChicago mostly to work with my advisor, who is very involved in the field and is very supportive of his graduate students. There also seemed to be a lot of collaboration between my department and the astronomy department, which was great because at the time I was debating whether to go into an astronomy department instead. I’m also very much a city girl; I don’t think I could live in a small town for a long period of time, so Chicago was perfect in that regard.
Describe something you are proud of accomplishing at UChicago.
I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished academically so far. I published a paper about snowball bifurcations on tidally-locked planets and am working on three more to be submitted soon. I’m also proud to have been invited to give talks a few times at conferences and at departmental seminars outside of UChicago.
What’s something you love to do outside of the classroom and lab?
I love to hang out with my dog, Kali; she’s the best. I’m also learning Japanese, and will soon be starting acting lessons at The Second City.
What are your plans post-UChicago?
My plans are to either stay in academia or to work as a research scientist at NASA or at another research institute. Either way, I’d like to remain in the field of exoplanet research.
What support have you received at UChicago that was particularly valuable to you?
I’ve received a lot of support from my advisor, who is good at making sure we both stay on top of our work and take care of our mental health while in grad school. I felt quite a bit of anxiety during my first year at UChicago and in the few months preceding my qualifying exam, but his support made a big difference.
If you were speaking to someone who wants to learn about UChicago, what would you tell them?
You will be given many opportunities to participate in research that truly interests you, whether you are an undergraduate or a graduate student. I found that faculty is easily approachable both in my department and outside of it, which is invaluable when starting a career in academia and building connections.
UChicago itself is a very inclusive campus, and the relatively small number of students (compared to larger state schools) means that classes are small and resources are easily accessible.
How has your background or experience prepared you to contribute to an environment where diversity and inclusion are valued?
Moving from Belgium to North America, I have an appreciation for the challenges of feeling like an outsider and how working in a supportive and inclusive environment can really make a difference. I was also lucky to live for five years in Toronto, a very multi-cultural city where diversity is valued.